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Friday, August 03, 2018


by Penelope Scambly Schott

In the kitchen of the school cafeteria
Becky and I stood at a makeshift counter
slicing 140 heads of romaine lettuce
to make salad for the 400 fire fighters
headquartered in the school parking lot

Terry was opening enormous cans
to make spaghetti sauce for 400 people
I have no idea how many cans it took
None of us wore those little head nets
like the lunch ladies in old cafeterias

A red-faced young man replaced bags
in the gray industrial garbage pails
The district superintendent stopped by
to see whether we needed anything
He’s also the high school football coach
Someone reported the wind had shifted
and we wondered aloud whose farm
between which of the back roads
Becky and I kept slicing up lettuce
We were getting really fast at our job

A farmer just a few miles south of us
ignited his best crop of wheat in years
to create a fire break that might save
his neighbor’s house and outbuildings
Somebody’s horses panicked and ran

This morning my house smells smoky
and I can see smoke rising over the hill
The missing horses are still missing
The wind is blowing seriously now
I have no good ending for this story

Author's Note: So far we’ve had four named fires spitting distance from here. It’s feeling damn near apocalyptic. Yes, my house is safe—there are 400 fire fighters headquartered across the street at the Dufur school.

Penelope Scambly Schott, author of a novel and several books of poetry, was awarded four New Jersey arts fellowships before moving to Oregon, where her verse biography A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth received an Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Several of Penelope’s books and individual poems have won other prizes. Her individual poems have appeared in APR, Georgia Review, Nimrod, and elsewhere.